Foundations for employee engagement – the four pillars
What actually works to improve employee engagement?
Employee engagement is about an employee using their full self in their work – being physically engaged, emotionally engaged, and mentally engaged – working with a passion and feeling a keen connection to the organisation. It is more than happiness, job satisfaction or organisational commitment on their own. Having engaged employees benefits everyone – the organisation, its employees, and its customers – it increases the chances of success for all.
Four basic pillars lay the foundation for employee engagement. Not all employees need all four to be fully engaged. However, the more pillars they respond to, the more chance you have of improving engagement levels.
Great management has always been about getting great performance from people. Actively work to understand, address and fill any gaps in the four key foundations for employee engagement, and get great performance from your people.
1. Effective communication
How effective and consistent is the communication in your workplace? We cannot start looking at how to engage our employees without first looking at how we communicate with them.
Communication is the most quoted form of frustration in the workplace, and usually the thing that leads to the most problems. Dramatically improving your communication is the very first place to start when trying to improve employee engagement. It links all the pillars together.
Effective communication is a two-way street and is central to successful working relationships. It requires honesty and openness combined with mutual respect.
Successful communication can be thought of as a process of gathering and giving good information in order to achieve a goal. To develop successful and sustainable relationships, we need to know what is on people’s minds. As people also need to know what is on our minds, we need to be able to express it with consideration and tact.
2. Ongoing learning and development opportunities
Do your people feel like they are learning new things and developing their skills? The majority of employees need to feel like they are growing or advancing and that they are developing new skills or learning new things on a regular basis. They also need to know that their managers care.
How do you currently provide learning and development opportunities in your organisation? What are you doing to foster a culture of managerial support for your employees’ growth and development of skills?
3. Reward and recognition
Do your people feel appreciated and have a sense of importance and purpose in their roles?
All human beings, no matter how tough or hardened they appear to be, need to feel appreciated and that their contribution is valuable.
Appreciation doesn’t have to cost the earth or involve over-the-top, elaborate gestures. Not everyone is into public praising. In fact, for some people, it may have the opposite effect, causing embarrassment.
Try to understand what types of reward and recognition have the biggest impact for different people and do it in a way that suits the individual best.
4. Trust and confidence
Do your people trust their managers and the organisation? Do they have confidence in them? You cannot build employee engagement if you don’t have the trust and confidence of direct reports.
Supportive and trustworthy managers enhance employee engagement. What sort of tone do leaders set in your workplace? Do they put their team first and protect them when things go wrong, or throw them under the bus?
Do your people feel like they have some control over what goes on? Are people spending all their time trying to protect themselves from managers or each other? If they do, then how much time are they spending with your clients or customers?
Refer back to the four pillars – are employees given information, education, opportunities for development, corrective feedback to do better next time?
When people feel safe and protected by the leadership in the organisation, the natural reaction is to trust and cooperate – and that is the stuff needed to build engagement and good organisational cultures.
Employee engagement is the fuel of any organisation and a key driver of success. Ensure you have the four key foundations in place and monitor and nurture those foundations on an ongoing basis and engagement will thrive.